Longtime Southside Raiders head football coach Wayne Strong has always insisted that Southside Raider football is much more than football, it’s about preparing young people for future success.
“The Southside Raiders are so much more about football or about cheerleading … this is about life,” Strong tells Madison365. “It’s about teaching life skills. It’s about developing character so they can go on to the next level so that they will be beneficial members of the society and go on to achieve tremendous accomplishments. That’s what we want and expect of our kids.”
As they start their 46th season, the Southside Raiders and Cheerleaders are ramping up fundraising with a new 1,000 Friends Promotion to help the young people get the resources they need for another successful season.
“What we’re hoping to do is to be able to have 1,000 of our friends give $10 in hopes of raising $10,000 so we can put that money towards running the program in terms of purchasing the equipment and paying for all of the expenses we have with the Southside Raiders program,” Strong says. “The more money we can raise to get our season off to a good start, the more beneficial it will be to the program.”
What if I want to give more than $10? Is that OK?
“Oh, people can give more than $10. They can give as much as their heart desires,” smiles Strong. “We’re grateful for everything we get and we are grateful for all of the community support we’ve gotten over the years. We’ve certainly seen that support since I first became involved in 1995 and even before. The community support has been unwavering and it’s really helped to build the program to where it is today.”
Founded by Will Boyd Smith, the Raiders will soon start their 46th season of molding young men and women on Madison’s south side. They are all about those core values, but make no mistake about it: They are also very much about football. The Southside Raiders are always a team to be reckoned with and they have produced some incredible athletic talent including St. Louis Rams wide receiver Derek Stanley, former NBA guard Reece Gaines, and former Wisconsin Badger linebacker Jeff Mack, to name a few.
Strong says that along with donations, they are always looking for volunteers to help out with the program. He adds that he is excited that the Southside Raiders established themselves as a 501c3 non-profit last year with its own board of directors. “We’re really trying to elevate the Southside Raiders and bring it to the next level in terms of what we can provide for our participants and their families through this program,” Strong says.
To be a Southside Raider, you must carry yourself, both on and off the field, in a way that is in line with the principles that the program was built on. The values that young people learn from the Southside Raiders football program have had a positive impact on the Madison community for more than four decades. The Southside Raiders has been an effective and positive program for keeping kids focused on school and out of trouble and has helped to attack the racial achievement gap in Madison.
“We see that there is a real disconnect in terms of the level of service that our kids are getting and needing and what we want to try to do is to lessen that gap,” Strong says. “We have very limited resources but we really stress the importance of education, so we want to work directly with the school district and directly with the parents to make sure that we are advocates for our kids.
“It’s so important for programs like the Southside Raiders to maintain that connection with our families and with our kids so we can help start them off toward the brightest futures they can possibly have and give them all the tools and resources and encouragement and support that we can give them so they can be successful in life,” he adds. “That’s what we want for all of our kids.”